A small army of skilled trades and contractors are working on building the first of two towers that will make up the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre at the University of Toronto (U of T).
Construction of the 12-storey structure, with two mechanical penthouse floors, is pressing ahead with concrete slabs and vertical walls being installed on the upper floors. Simultaneously, rough-ins for the mechanical and electrical systems along with drywall framing have started on the lower floors.
The structure is being built on the north side of College Street east of Queen’s Park Crescent. Presently, trades are working on building the eighth and ninth floors.
The tower will have 250,000 square feet of learning space for students at the university with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), innovation and machine and deep learning.
The building will house the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society, which aims to deepen the understanding of powerful technologies such as AI and develop human-centred solutions to ensure technology improves life for everyone.
It will also be home to the Vector Institute, an independent, not-for-profit dedicated to research in the field of AI and machine and deep learning, U of T entrepreneurship offices, campus-linked accelerators such as the Centre for Entrepreneurship, UTEST and ONRamp, and have space for student startups and affiliates.
“The main utility feeds are now coming into the property or in progress,” says a spokesperson from the U of T in a statement prepared for Daily Commercial News.
“Mechanical equipment installations are starting at the P1.5 level. Mechanical and electrical will continue to progress as re-shoring is removed. Precast cladding will start in late October into early November.”
Workers will begin installing curtainwall and glazing in early November. The tower is expected to be completed in December 2022.
Steelworkers and masonry, formwork and drywall trades are onsite, along with pre-cast, waterproofing, mechanical and electrical contractors. In addition, there are various external contractors co-ordinating with EllisDon who are doing quality control work and installing water, gas and communications lines.
Construction of a second tower at the university, which will be 21 storeys with three mechanical penthouse floors, is expected to get underway about the same time as the first one is being completed.
The Banting building on the campus, which was built in 1930, is planned for demolition to make way for the second tower.
The second tower will have more than 400,000 square feet of space. The focus of the tower will be on bio-medicine, housing laboratories and research space for innovators in regenerative medicine, genetics and precision medicine, among others.
Both towers will be glass-clad buildings that taper towards the top. They will also have in-floor heating and meet all of Toronto’s green building standards. The goal is for the structures to exceed American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers energy efficiency standards by 40 per cent. Together, the towers will have 650,000 square feet of institutional space.
The two towers, designed by leading architectural firm Weiss/Manfredi, will create a new gateway for the university and feature soaring atria with vertical gardens and collaborative spaces that promote intellectual exchange and invite the public to take part in events and interact with scholars and innovators. The building’s engaging spaces will host thousands of researchers, investors, industry partners and international visitors each year.
In the future, there will be direct access from the buildings to the nearby Queen’s Park subway station.
The U of T spokesperson stated the towers will be the country’s largest innovation centre, reflecting the university’s central position in AI research and innovation.
“It will be the country’s largest concentration of student and faculty-led start-ups, firmly positioning Toronto as the place for creating new technology companies, jobs and solutions,” the spokesperson said.
U of T anticipates releasing a request for proposals for the second tower later this fall with a best-in-class life sciences developer to design and construct the project.
Total cost of the towers has not been released by the university. Philanthropists and business leaders Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman made a $100-million investment for the project in March 2019. It is the largest donation in U of T’s history and the largest gift ever to the Canadian innovation sector.
The project has faced a number of challenges during the build of the first tower, namely the COVID-19 pandemic, a shortage of union labour, and the fact the work is taking place in a constrained area.
On-site rapid testing for workers has helped alleviate some of the challenges of the pandemic and a “re-sequencing of work” has enabled the contractor to overcome the shortage of labour, the U of T spokesperson states.
“The project site has limited lay down areas, meaning materials have to arrive on a just-in-time basis, which is challenging with current supply-chain issues. These challenges have been overcome by expediting the procurement of materials well in advance of the scheduled installation.”